National Library Week (April 19 – 25, 2020) is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and library workers and to promote library use and support. As the impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve and change the work of libraries and library workers, libraries are proving resourceful and resilient.

Santa Monica Public Library started with a donation. In November 1890, the town trustees accepted a proposal from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union to turn over WCTU Reading Room’s collection of 800 books. On December 10, Elfie Mosse was appointed City Librarian. The first library location occupied two rooms in a bank building on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Third St.

Since those humble beginnings, SMPL has grown to become a system of five locations with over 400,000 volumes. We’ve been through two world wars, recessions big and small(er), an asbestos-infested facility, the Northridge earthquake — and, the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic.

Santa Monica Public Library responded quickly during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis to offer the community access to library materials. Library staff created a new Online Library webpage delivering access the library’s free digital services; e-books, e-audiobooks, streaming movies and music, digital newspapers, magazines, homework help, language learning, and virtual programming.

Users can apply for a temporary library card, if they don’t already have a library card, for access to the Santa Monica Public Library’s suite of downloadable and streaming media.

Between March 17 and April 14, 2020 library staff registered 340 new patrons and answered over 600 questions via phone and email. The library’s suite of electronic and downloadable media enjoyed a significant increase in usage with over 22,000 checkouts.

Measuring the library’s value in dollars using numbers from fiscal year 2018-19 (July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019) and the American Library Association’s Library Value Calculator. Santa Monica Public Library’s dollar value is over $22 million.

Stats           Library Materials & Services           Value of Your Use

280,859       Adult Books Borrowed                              $5,617,180.00

28,266          YA Books Borrowed                                   $480,522.00

260,988        Children’s Books Borrowed                     $3,131,856.00

17,590            Audiobooks Borrowed                              $263,850.00

2,175              Interlibrary Loan Requests                      $52,200.00

71,536            eBooks Downloaded                                  $715,360.00

24,710           Magazines Read                                           $172,970.00

19,643           Newspapers Read                                        $58,929.00

335,230        Movies Borrowed                                         $3,017,070.00

26,743           CDs Borrowed                                              $266,092.85

3,489             Music Downloaded                                      $4,500.81

2,409             Meeting Room Use (per hour)                  $60,225.00

21,352            Adult Program Attended                            $320,280.00

1,962              Young Adult Program Attended                $23,544.00

41,549            Children’s Program Attended                    $290,843.00

159,705          Computer Use (per hour)                           $3,353,805.00

134,596          Database Searches                                       $2,685,190.20

122,879          Reference Assistance                                  $2,088,943.00

Total $22,603,360.86

Public libraries have a long tradition of serving the community. The same remains true today. The library staff anticipate an onslaught of people needing library services once “safer at home” restrictions are lifted, and we reopen. From free access to books and online resources for families to library resources that help support entrepreneurship and retraining, libraries offer opportunity to all.

Through thick and thin, Santa Monica Public Library has always endeavored to serve with the love and support of our community. Much has changed in 130 years, but the tradition of service will always be our cornerstone.

Submitted by By Kathy Lo, Image Archives Librarian and Susan Lamb, Principal Librarian of Reference Services

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